Cycling Style Hack

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The viral sensation Penny in Yo’ Pants, co-founded by Fargo native Johanna Holton (now residing in Edinburgh, Scotland), will be launching a 30-day crowdfunding campaign to get women (and their skirts) on bikes and to support the women’s cycling team in Afghanistan. I chatted with Johanna about her team’s invention, why fashion should be considered in the world of cycling, and about the good work that’s coming from the project.


What is Penny in Yo’ Pants? Penny in Yo’ Pants is a really simple idea which makes your skirt bikeable. It started off using a penny and a rubber band and now we have developed a slicker model to make it easier to wear your skirt on a bike.

How did it come about? It began at CycleHack, a 48-hour global hackathon event to reduce the barriers to cycling. There were a few of us who were keen to explore ideas around making it more comfortable to wear our everyday clothes on bikes.  Alec from the team offered up a penny and a rubber band as an idea to cinch your skirt into shorts and Penny in Yo’ Pants was born. At CycleHack, an idea isn’t enough so we created a really short one-take film, a brand, and website and then moved along to other hack ideas.
Before we knew it, our film went viral. It has been viewed over 3.4 million times and we have been featured in Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Slate, BBC World News, and Cosmopolitan. Women all over the world have been sharing photos, films, and talking about how Penny was actually inspiring them to give cycling another go. It was absolutely amazing to see!
While the penny and rubber band are simple and cheap – women were telling us that it’s aggressive on the fabric and isn’t always graceful to put in. As I use it all the time, I had problems taking it on and off as well!   We were inspired to create something better.  We’ve spent the last few months prototyping and testing all kind of different ideas, and now, we are launching the new product over a 30-day crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
We had no idea our idea would take us this far, I can’t wait to see where Penny takes us next!

Is it intended for current cyclists, or is it meant to persuade more women to try biking? While we weren’t necessarily creating it for a specific audience — we did have regular everyday cyclists in mind. The growing buzz around Penny wasn’t just from commuters though – so many women were sharing stories about how Penny was inspiring them to give cycling another go.

The video you made for the original idea kinda went viral, from what I remember. What was the attention like? It was exciting, embarrassing, surprising, and loads of fun to see Penny growing.  Friends were getting in touch to tell me that they saw us in various different places on Facebook and Twitter. People were even saying they saw women wear pennies in New York and Copenhagen.
But the fact that women were taking the time to share pictures, write blogs, and take short films about Penny was the most amazing part.  It made me feel connected to a wider cycling community beyond the streets of Edinburgh in a way I had never felt before.


And national publications were contacting you?
My bare knees were in Cosmopolitan. It was unbelievable.

You launched an IndieGoGo campaign on the 5th. What do you hope to accomplish with that?
Now that we have the new Penny, the crowdfunding campaign will help us develop it.  I can’t wait to share the new product — it’s functional, smart, and really stylish. I wear mine all the time on my bike — it has become as important as my bike lights and lock.
But, it’s about much more than skirts and even bikes. We have launched Penny for Good where we will raise funds for amazing charities supporting women on their bikes. We are really proud to support the women’s cycling team in Afghanistan this year who are challenging gender barriers and putting their lives at risk for the love of cycling.  They are an extremely courageous group of women and we want to do anything we can to help them.  With each sale, we will send a portion of the proceeds to support the team in their training and development. I love that what started out by accident is now supporting a group of amazing people who are using their bikes to make change.

Why consider fashion in the realm of cycling? It’s really interesting to consider the two together.  I think we assume style on the bike requires skirts or a particular level of sacrifice of comfort or safety. There are so many different stereotypes of cyclists as well defined by what they wear! I think by considering fashion in the realm of cycling, you can make it more accessible and relevant. And vice versa.

I only started cycling a few years ago and on getting on my bike, I began to experiment with my everyday style to see how I could put it on two wheels.  Sure, there were particular favourite items of clothing that just wouldn’t cut it but that was more because of the wet and wind of Edinburgh, not necessarily the bike.

I came to realize that the bikeable style is creativity, but more than anything, confidence.  As long as you are wearing a style that represents you and makes you feel strong and confident – be it wearing skirts, heels or lycra – you embody a style that represents you on the bike. I think fashion is the same – it takes into account what makes you feel comfortable, creative, and strong.

That’s why I love Penny, it allows you to be exactly who you are. You don’t to need to wear a particular pair of cycling tights or gear – just be who you are. And then throw a penny in.






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Ellen Lawson is the creator and EIC of The Flyover, a graphic designer and photographer living in Minneapolis.


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